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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to a recent nationally syndicated newspaper column that questioned the need for men to wash their hands after using a public restroom, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) reiterated the importance of hand hygiene to prevent the transmission of germs.
According to APIC president Jeanne Pfeiffer, the physician-authored medical column neglected to note that a public restroom remains a fertile breeding ground for fecal and other forms of contamination when hands come in contact with toilet and sink handles, towel dispensers, and stall doors and knobs.
Pfeiffer explained that while the column was technically correct in asserting that urine is normally sterile, the issue of restroom hygiene and handwashing is much more complex. Restroom practices may vary from individual to individual and it would be irresponsible to generalize that it is safe to bypass handwashing altogether.
"It is a giant leap from asserting that urine is sterile to saying that it is not necessary to wash your hands," Pfeiffer said. "The culprit isn't urine, but rather the germs present on our bodies and in the restroom environment that make handwashing a necessary and healthful practice."
Pfeiffer noted that hepatitis A is commonly spread through less-than-hygienic restroom practices as are many food borne outbreaks. "If people aren't washing their hands after using a restroom, they may be unwittingly spreading their germs onto every surface they touch," she said.
Pfeiffer continued, "We have serious concerns that readers may misinterpret the column's advice and forgo handwashing in this setting. We have the science to prove that handwashing remains the simplest, most effective way to control the spread of infection."
The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is a non-profit, international organization that seeks to influence, support and improve the quality of healthcare through the practice and management of infection control and healthcare epidemiology. Based in Washington, DC, APIC (www.apic.org) has more than 110 regional chapters in the U.S. and over 10,000 members worldwide.